Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Strawberry Jam Season - And The Recipe

Strawberries have been an intrinsic part of my October and November life since before my blog began. Some years we’ve grown enough to sell, jam and feast on, others only enough to gather surreptitiously and tell no-one else about, lest we be short of a few jars of jam before the next season rolls in. Two years running we had a strange bug that bothered our strawberries  (we grow organically so no sprays)  and I spent ages sorting and chopping out the bug bits, jamming the remainder.

Strawberry jam is one of my home-made Christmas gifts to friends. I beg jars from all and sundry, spend evenings washing, drying and chopping the gorgeous ripe fruit.

I pick twice a week and yet never get beyond popping that perfect sweetly ripe berry into my mouth instead of into the basket.

At least one morning a week a huge pot of ruby jewel-like syrup bubbles on the stove, filling the house with a warm rich jammy aroma. Often it bubbles right over, leaving a sticky mess to clear up later.

And then there is the satisfaction of a neat row of filled jars, sealed and cooling on the counter.

And yet never yet have I posted my recipe for strawberry jam. Not because it’s a big secret. It’s very simple with no tricks of the trade other than good strawberries to start with. So I’m sharing it now, just in case you are also lucky enough to have excess strawberries on your hands.

Recipe for Strawberry Jam
1 kg strawberries
750g white sugar
2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more
(you can easily double the quantities if you have a big enough pan and plenty of fruit)

Wash and dry the strawberries. They must be dry before you start or the water will dilute the natural pectin and it will take forever to set. I usually put a clean dishcloth on a tray and lay them out in one layer after washing with another over the top until most of the dampness has been absorbed.

Chop the berries, in half or quarters depending on the size.

When you have 1 kg of chopped berries, put them into a large stainless steel (or enamel) pan and pour over the sugar. Give the pan a shake to let the sugar get cosy with the berries. Leave the pan in a cool place, covered, overnight.

(The soaking in sugar overnight helps the soft fruit retain its shape in the finished jam instead of dissolving to a mush as it cooks)

Next morning the berries will have given out a beautiful red syrup, floating with sugar icebergs, and are ready to cook.

Bring the jam gently to simmering point over a low heat. Stir several times to make sure the sugar isn’t stuck on the bottom. Only when all the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat. Add the lemon juice (for its pectin – the amount to use depends  on the fruit – use too little and it won’t set  - the riper the berries the more lemon juice you need ).

Bring the jam to a brisk bubble. Watch it like a hawk – at this point it loves to bubble right up and over the edge of the pot, to flood the stove top with sticky red syrup. This is why you need a really big pan. Ideally the berries and sugar should come no more than half the way up the sides of the pan before you start cooking.

Let it cook for 20-30 minutes, then test it for set. Mine tends to be fairly runny, as that is how we like it. It keeps the fresh berry flavour better.

Pour the hot jam into sterilized jars and seal immediately.

Our season started late this year and so the strawberries are only now getting into top gear. I’ve only just made my second batch of jam, but the way they are fruiting this week I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll have enough for gifts, enough to see us through the year and even some over to sell at the local market.

Now if it will stop raining I’ll just go and pick that last row which is groaning with ripe berries.

Oh and the youngberries have loads of flowers right now, so in a few weeks we’ll be picking them too. 2011 is a good year for berries!

Other recipes to do with strawberries: strawberry cake... or strawberry tarts

I've bravely entered the SA Blog Awards this year, so please vote for me - all you have to do is click on the Vote button in the sidebar on the right - then confirm your vote on the e-mail they send you. Only one vote per category per person - so I'm hoping the promise of strawberry jam will sway you! Tea and scones at my house anyone?!


  1. I voted! And I vote for tea and scones at your house too! Good luck.

  2. Thanks, Charlotte! Tea and scones will be ready and waiting whenever you're ready!

  3. I voted! Best of luck! 8-) Gorgeous, gorgeous berries too... yummmmmmm!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!